IRC Expands Emergency Services in Liberia
The International Rescue Committee is expanding emergency services to meet the urgent needs of tens of thousands of displaced Liberians crowded into 110 locations in the capital, Monrovia.
Emergency Education For Liberian Children
For the first time in months and in some cases years, hundreds of young displaced children are resuming learning activities this week as part of the IRC's non-formal education program. The IRC identified teachers and began registration and the distribution of school supplies Tuesday. Classes are set to begin Friday on subjects including reading, math, social studies, hygiene and health and life-skills.
"Schools are closed to students across the country because of ongoing conflict and the majority of them are occupied by displaced people," says program officer Maggie Hans. "These IRC classes will at least provide some normal learning activities for children." The IRC also launched recreational programs for children and youth this week, distributing sports equipment, craft materials and instruments for young people who have had little to do in the settlements.
With increasing reports of rape and other sexual abuse against women and girls, the IRC is taking a lead on expanding emergency services, safeguards and prevention activities in Monrovia. (Read also: Aid Given Rape Survivors in Monrovia, As Prevention Efforts Begin.)
Health Clinics Serve 60,000
IRC health care workers opened a sixth clinic today in the Nezoe neighborhood, bringing primary and reproductive health care to some 7,000 displaced Liberians who previously had no access to basic services. In all, IRC clinics are providing health care services for some 30,000 displaced persons and more than 30,000 people in the communities hosting them.
The IRC's mobile health teams continue to conduct daily measles vaccinations and dispense vitamin A for children. "Over the past two weeks, we've been able to vaccinate 16,640 children between the ages of six months and 15 years," says Dr. Tahlil, the IRC's health coordinator in Liberia. "The goal for the initial campaign is 24,000, and we plan to expand immunization services for 26,000 more children living in 17 additional sites beginning early September."
IRC teams are also constructing latrines and bathhouses at several of the settlements in Monrovia, and will begin rehabilitating water sources next week to ensure an adequate supply for drinking. "The sanitation situation is particularly appalling," says Sam Gonzaga, who is overseeing the IRC's water and sanitation program. "The conditions are complicated by the current rainy season which causes flooding that spreads waste around congested areas."
An IRC emergency team returned yesterday from an assessment mission to the Kakata area in Margibi County. The IRC and other aid groups are preparing to provide emergency assistance for 13,000 displaced people crammed into the Science College of the University of Liberia in the village of Findal. As the mosquito-infested site has no functioning latrines, the IRC is preparing to begin latrine construction, creating walls and ceilings with insecticide-treated sheeting. The special tarpaulin will also be used to separate sleeping areas for families. IRC teams will distribute and help install the sheeting.
With the goal of restarting previous programs as soon as possible, an emergency team has surveyed four camps just outside Monrovia where the IRC had been running schools and youth programming. This area in Montserrado County was overrun by violence in May forcing out nearly all of the displaced Liberians and Sierra Leonean refugees living there.
"The camps and surrounding roads appeared calm and Liberians are slowly returning from Monrovia and nearby villages," says emergency response team coordinator Gillian Dunn. "People we met cited food scarcity as the biggest problem and we found a serious deterioration in the shelters," she said. The IRC's schools had been looted, but Dunn noted that the structures are intact and that IRC teachers who were displaced by the violence are among the returnees.
In the coming weeks, the IRC will be participating in an inter-agency effort to relocate tens of thousands of uprooted Liberians who want to escape the crowded Monrovia settlements and move to the larger and more established camps on the outskirts of the city. "The shift to the Montserrado camps, which have far better water and sanitation services than the makeshift sites in the city, is a temporary measure," said Wubeshet Woldemariam, IRC country director. "But for those living in the outlying regions that have been cut off from humanitarian aid for so long, it brings them one step closer to home."